Five Facts on Police Reform Proposals
The recent conviction of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 murder of George Floyd has once again put the spotlight on broader police reform efforts in Congress. The Democratic-controlled House has passed a reform bill. Republican senators had previously weighed an alternative plan and now bipartisan negotiations are underway to bridge the differences.
A brief look at their basic approaches to debate:
1. Democrats, but not Republicans, would end “qualified immunity” for police officers. The legal doctrine of qualified immunity prevents individual police officers from facing civil lawsuits except in very rare circumstances. The Democrats’ reform bill would end qualified immunity for police officers. Congressional Republicans have suggested that police departments, but not individual officers, face civil liability in instances of officer misconduct.
2. Democrats would publicly disclose police misconduct data; Republicans would use it internally. The Democrats’ legislation would collect and make publicly available data on police misconduct and use-of-force incidents. The Republican plan is narrower. It would require police departments to maintain disciplinary information on officers and share it with other departments making hiring decisions.
3. Democrats would ban no-knock warrants in drug cases; Republicans would urge alternatives. The Democrats’ House-passed bill would ban no-knock warrants in drug cases, as were used in the police raid that resulted in the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky. Republicans would not ban such warrants, but would require reporting on their use, and would encourage departments to use alternatives.
4. Democrats would ban police choke-holds; Republicans would strongly discourage them. The Democrats’ bill would ban chokeholds and carotid holds, and classify their use as civil rights violations. The GOP plan would withhold federal funds for departments that don’t ban chokeholds except when deadly force is authorized.
5. Democrats would limit the transfer of military-style equipment to police departments. Republicans have not made such recommendations. Critics say it’s inappropriate for police departments to use military equipment such as bayonets and grenades.
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